CAMP LEATHERNECK, Helmand province, Afghanistan --
Day-shift workers in 2nd Marine Division’s (Forward) intelligence section wait until nightfall to squeeze in their cardio. They are tired from working all day, but they have committed to a goal of running hundreds of miles in a mere six months and aren’t going to get there by sleeping.
These Marines are participating in the Leatherneck 236 Challenge. They chose to complete distances of 236, 472 or 944 miles between May 10 and Nov. 10, 2011, the Marine Corps’ 236th birthday, to raise money for the Wounded Warrior Project and the British Limbless Ex Service Men's Association.
The intel Marines have found their groove and are benefiting from the extra exercise since starting the challenge.
“Running five or six days a week definitely gets you in better shape, especially with the altitude,” said Garrett, Ind., native Sgt. Britany Rivera, the production and analysis day chief in the intel section. “You just notice that you get acclimatized and it’s just so much easier after every day.”
Rivera prefers to run her miles but the rules allow participants to row, cycle or use an elliptical machine to complete the pledged distance if they so choose, said British army Cpl. Richard McNeilly, from Newtownards, Northern Ireland, and one of the event’s coordinators. This has attracted Marines who like to mix up their cardio routine.
“I get bored easily if I do one thing, so I break it up,” said Clear Lake, Iowa, native Gunnery Sgt. Chad Trebil, the intel section operations chief. “I usually do between seven and ten miles, sometimes up to 15 a day through a combination of rowing, running and elliptical.”
It can be difficult for Marines at Camp Leatherneck to find time to work out while deployed due to long working hours and shift changes. The participants, determined to stay in shape while Afghanistan, say the challenge has helped them to find the motivation to get out and train whenever they can.
“(The challenge) gives me a little more motivation to get out there instead of (saying), ‘I’m tired, I just want to go to my room and sleep,” said Trebil, who has committed to completing 944 miles. “Plus, I get to challenge my Marines – kind of compete against them. So far I’m beating them pretty good."
The challenge has brought out a competitive spirit between other Marines in the intel section as well. Rivera currently has a friendly bet going with Cpl. Matthew Jenkins, an intelligence analyst in her section. Both have pledged to run 472 miles but each plans to exceed that distance, the winner determined by who has logged the most miles by Nov. 10. Rivera said she recently returned from a rest and recuperation period and fell behind, but now he’s on R&R and she plans on pounding the pavement hard to gain the upper hand.
“(I said), ‘I’m in better shape than he is,’ and he said, ‘No, I’m in better shape,” said Rivera with a slight grin. “What it comes down to is who can actually do more miles. I’m not going to let a corporal beat me because I’m a sergeant – I mean, how would that look?”
The Leatherneck 236 Challenge is approximately half-over and both Trebil and Rivera have logged about half their required miles. They are determined to finish what they started and continue to sweat, not snooze during their free time to ensure it happens.
Editor’s note: Headquarters Battalion (Forward) is currently assigned to 2nd Marine Division (Forward), which heads Task Force Leatherneck. The task force serves as the ground combat element of Regional Command (Southwest) and works in partnership with the Afghan National Security Force and the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to conduct counterinsurgency operations. The unit is dedicated to securing the Afghan people, defeating insurgent forces and enabling ANSF assumption of security responsibilities within its area of operations in order to support the expansion of stability, development and legitimate governance.